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Accelerate HCI environments with Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA)

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 10/04/2022
Blog Category: cloud-and-data-centers

Intel has made many software and firmware enhancements to the Intel Ethernet 800 Series network adapters since introducing them several years ago. Some of these enhancement can help you accelerate hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) workloads from VMware and Microsoft.

The key technology here is RDMA, short for Remote Direct Memory Access. It can empower servers to share data with minimal involvement of their operating systems’ networking stack. Also, RDMA can be implemented to use either kernel or user space.

In other words, RDMA enables one server or node to write to the memory of another. In the case of HCI environments, RDMA can accelerate the hypervisor traffic, and it lets a virtual machine (VM) directly access a network interface card (NIC). Either way, the goal is data networking with both high throughput and low latency.

Intel’s Ethernet 800 Series network adapters implement RDMA while also supporting a pair of popular network protocols: iWARP and RoCEv2. Users select the preferred protocol via software per port for low-latency, high-throughput workloads.

As you may know, iWARP runs over TCP/IP and works with all Ethernet network infrastructure that supports TCP/IP. As for RoCEv2, it operates on top of UDP/IP to provide low latency and high throughput, and it also requires an Ethernet network-switching infrastructure that supports data center bridging (DCB).

Define your terms

Implementing HCI involves one tricky aspect: What is it, exactly? Ask a half-dozen HCI vendors how they define their solutions, and you’d get a half-dozen different answers.

Still, there is a common consensus. HCI is a catchphrase for technologies that consolidate—or “converge”—multiple functions.

Typically, those functions include networking, compute and storage. Essentially, HCI hides the complexity of those functions. Instead, it provides a solution that’s comparatively simple and self-contained.

That said, there are some differences among the myriad HCI suppliers. Here’s a look at two important ones, as well as how Intel Ethernet 800 Series network adapters can help to accelerate them.

Microsoft Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI is Microsoft’s hyperconverged infrastructure host OS. It pools both on-prem and cloud resources to optimize storage, performance, scalability and functionality. It also includes software-defined networking and network-virtualization features that include host and guest RDMA.

In a recent Enterprise Strategy Group report, senior analyst Jack Poller explains that the Intel Ethernet 800 Series network adapters enable Azure Stack HCI to move volumes of data efficiently and securely across on-prem, edge and cloud infrastructures. In so doing, the adapters also support multiple storage protocols and make the most of virtual resources.

What’s more, Intel Ethernet 800 Series network adapters support 1G to 100G Ethernet speeds and both iWARP and RoCE 2 RDMA. That lets Azure Stack HCI administrators select both storage speeds and RDMA protocols.

VMware vSAN

VMware’s vSAN is enterprise virtualization software that lets users manage compute and storage with a single platform. It’s designed to reduce both the cost and complexity of traditional storage. vSAN does this by leveraging a hyperconverged infrastructure for a hybrid-cloud solution.

Fortunately, VMware vSAN now supports RDMA. So when paired with Intel Ethernet 800 Series network adapters and 3rd Gen Intel Xeon scalable processors, vSAN lets users scale even further. That can increase efficiencies and lower latency.

One useful feature of the Intel 800 Series network adapters can help vSAN even more: congestion management. This feature lets users direct RDMA traffic to the least-congested port.

Intel Ethernet network adapters play a role by boosting the speed and efficiency of the network infrastructure. That includes support for RDMA.

Watch this HCI space for future developments. This is a hot technology that’s sure to keep evolving.

Accelerate HCI with RDMA:

> Intel 800 Series network adapters

> Intel RDMA resource center

> Intel and VMware partnership

> Optimizing Efficiency and Performance with Azure Stack HCI


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